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Australia shares dip on weaker banks, consumer stocks; NZ rises

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[BENGALURU] Australian shares slipped on Thursday, led lower by banks and consumer staples with some investors looking to shift funds to emerging markets as they became less worried about the US-China trade war.

The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 0.3 per cent or 20.50 points to 6,169.50 at the close of trade. The benchmark gained 0.5 per cent on Wednesday.

Mathan Somasundaram, market portfolio strategist with Blue Ocean Equities, said the escalating trade tensions had pushed money from emerging markets into the Australian markets but easing concerns had reversed some of these flows.

Financials led the fall on Thursday, with Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd falling 0.8 per cent, while Westpac Banking Corp slid 0.4 per cent.

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Consumer staples added to the losses. Supermarket operators Woolworths Group Ltd and Wesfarmers Ltd fell 1.4 per cent and 1.9 per cent, respectively.

But materials stocks, especially miners rose on the back of higher copper prices, providing some support for the benchmark. The metals and mining index firmed 1.9 per cent to a three-week high.

Anglo-Australian miner BHP climbed 1.1 per cent to its highest since Sept 4, while Rio Tinto Ltd surged 3.6 per cent to a near two-month high.

Before the market opened on Thursday, Rio announced a US$3.2 billion share-buyback following the recent sale of some Australian coal assets.

In New Zealand, the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index rose 0.2 per cent or 15.81 points to finish the session at 9,360.87.

Consumer staples and utilities were among the top gainers, with dairy firm A2 Milk Company Ltd rising 0.9 per cent, while Meridian Energy Ltd climbed 1.2 per cent to a record high.

REUTERS